Escalante's Aubrie Hinds hits the ball back over the net against McCurdy in the Lady Lobos 3-1 win over the Lady Bobcats.
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
Escalante, Dulce Volleyball Teams Remain Unbeaten
Twenty or so miles apart in the upper tier of Rio Arriba County, the Escalante High School and Dulce High School volleyball teams are both off to quick starts in the 2018 season. The Lobos and the Hawks are both 3-0 so far this season. Despite their close proximity to each other, neither will meet during the regular season and will compete in different districts.
The Dulce Lady Hawks opened the season beating Cuba 25-16, 25-15, 25-15, then knocked off Mission Achievement and Success 25-5, 25-8, 25-18. Dulce defeated Estancia High School 23-25, 25-13, 25-23, 25-9 Sept. 4 at Dulce.
Coach Kathleen Salazar-Valdez starts her 10th season at the helm of the Hawks. The team is a mixture of veterans and talented underclassmen. Senior Jaelyn Reval, junior Caitlin Duncan and senior Brooke Vigil are the hitters for sophomore setter Jasmine Salazar. Sophomore Alancia Salazar is the libero. Dulce moved to District 1-2A this season.
The Hawks will face some tough competition Friday when they participate in a tournament at Piedra Vista High School in Farmington. The field includes Class 5A Piedra Vista, along with Class 4A Kirtland Central High School and Espanola Valley High School. Keeping their unbeaten streak alive at Piedra Vista will be a big challenge for Dulce.
Escalante opened its season with a 25-23, 16-25, 25-23, 25-15 victory over McCurdy Charter School. The Lady Lobos next victory came against Cuba High School. The Lady Lobos defeated the Lady Rams 25-12, 25-20, 25-22. Escalante beat Santa Fe Prep School 25-20, 20-25, 27-25, 25-19 Sept. 4 at Escalante to improve to 3-0 on the season.
In contrast to the tough road ahead for Dulce, Escalante should keep its unbeaten sreak alive a little longer. They host McCurdy in a rematch Sept. 13 and play To’hajiilee High School Sept. 15 at To’hajiilee. To’hajiilee lost to McCurdy 25-12, 25-20, 25-12 Aug.31 at the Santa Fe Waldorf School tournament. The Lady Lobos big test will come Sept. 20 when they play at Class 4A Bloomfield High School.
Escalante will remain is District 5-2A, where they will face familiar foes in Penasco High School and Mora High School. Mora was Class 2A state champion in 2016. Last season, Penasco defeated Escalante to win the District 2A Tournament championship after Escalante took the regular season title. The two teams met again at the Class 2A state volleyball tournament with Escalante winning that match.
Coach Henry Gettler is in his first season at Escalante. He has a veteran team to work with that includes senior outside hitters Aubrie Hinds and Hailey Whitaker, a senior setter in Sydnee DeYapp and a senior libero in Elyssa Baca.
Escalante libero Elyssa Baca passes the ball to the front against the McCurdy Lady Bobcats.
Gettler wants the Lady Lobos to play at a fast tempo and Escalante is responding to his style. When Escalante gets rolling, they are hard to stop. In the final set (game) against McCurdy, the Lobos were trailing 3-1 when they ran off 11 straight points to take control of the match.
‘Running at a quicker tempo helps a ton,” Coach Gettler said. “This team is tough-minded and they’ve bought in to what our strengths are.”
The Lobos don’t have a big, tall hitters, but they have a lot of players who can hit.
“What we do have is hitting across the front line,” Coach Gettler said. “We spread the ball around so every player knows they’ll have a shot at hitting. Everybody pays attention. We focus on efficient hitting.”
Gettler likes the sets that his team wins easily, but really appreciates the sets where the Lobos have to battle back and win the ones that are close. Escalante trailed McCurdy 18-12 in both the first and third sets before battling back to win.
“Close games are good games to win,” he said. “The key is to learn how to win close games.”